Sunday, February 22, 2015

Florence Greene 6/27/1917 ~~ 2/22/2015

Mother, Social Worker, Opera Singer, World Traveller, Gardener, Humanitarian, lover and protector of all animals...............
Good by Mom, journey home.  I will miss you.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die. 

 Mary Elizabeth Frye

Girl and Horse, 1928

You are younger than I am, you are
Someone I never knew, you stand
Under a tree, your face half-shadowed,
Holding the horse by its bridle.

Why do you smile?  Can’t you
See the apple blossoms falling around
You, snow, sun, snow,
listen, the tree dries
and is being burnt,  the wind

Is bending your body, your face
Ripples like water
Where did you go
But no, you stand there exactly
The same, you can’t hear me, forty

Years ago you were caught by light
And fixed in that secret
Place where we live, where we believe
Nothing can change, grow older.

(On the other side
of the picture, the instant
is over, the shadow
of the tree has moved.  You wave,

then turn and ride
out of sight through the vanished
orchard, still smiling
as though you do not notice)

Margaret Atwood

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Scatterlings of Africa..........Johnny Clegg and Juluka

 1993 L-R: Derek De Beer, Mandisa Dlanga, Solly Letwamba, Johnny Clegg, Steve Mavuso, Keith Hutchinson

Here's an artist hero not well known in the U.S.  Johnny Clegg is one of South Africa’s most celebrated sons. He is a singer, a songwriter, a dancer, anthropologist and a musical activist whose infectious crossover music has  broken through all the barriers in his own country. In France he is fondly called Le Zulu Blanc – the white Zulu.  I still cannot listen to  Johnny Clegg and Juluka  without finding myself dancing around the living room, remembering my African dance moves, and  feeling the vivid, imagined  landscapes of South Africa as I move.  Johnny

In 1969, Clegg formed the first prominent racially mixed South African band, Juluka, with  Zulu musician Sipho Mchunu. The name Juluka is based on the Zulu word for "sweat". Because it was illegal for racially mixed bands to perform in South Africa during the apartheid era, their first album Universal Men  received no air play on the state owned SABC, but it became a word-of-mouth hit.  Juluka's / Clegg's music was both implicitly and explicitly political; not only was the fact of the success of the band (which openly celebrated African culture in a bi-racial band) a thorn in the flesh of a political system based on racial separation, the band also produced some explicitly political songs. For example,  the later Savuka album Third World Child in 1987, with songs like "Asimbonanga" ("We haven't seen him"), which called for the release of Nelson Mandela, and which called out the names of three representative martyrs of the South African liberation struggle – Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge, and Neil Aggett.

As a result, Clegg and other band members were arrested several times and concerts routinely broken up.  Juluka were able to tour in Europe, and had two platinum and five gold albums, becoming an international success.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Butterfly Mind, Pollen Heart

Beauty above me, 
Beauty below me,
Beauty before me,
Beauty behind me,
I walk in Beauty.

Navajo (Dine`) Prayer

"Art is not a thing, it's a way of life" 

(seen on the billboard of the First Congregationalist Church this morning in La Verne, Ca.)

Although it is the 1st of February, Imbolc, the "Festival of Lights", I returned from the Conference in Claremont very thoughtful, inspired by speakers there, in particular, the activists for the Earth, ecologists and theologians, that spoke about our deepening crisis, and the need for all to become involved in activism, and re-mything culture, for our beloved Home, our Mother Earth, Anima Mundi.   

I have often felt, as so many do, despair in the past few years.   At 65, I feel myself becoming old,  physically limited.  As an artist, buying into the gross materialism of our world, I often absorb the feeling that what I do has no effect, no use in the face of what is occuring now.   Thanks to Wendy Griffin in particular, her eloquent and impassioned "call to arms" at the Conference on Pagan Studies last weekend.  She closed with a call to speak, do, create in all ways possible - for the Earth, for the future.   And synchronistically I received a note from Abby Willowroot, founder of the Goddess 2000 Project, commenting on the article below, which I wrote at May Day in 2012.  Abby is a great Pollinator herself, and I thank her for guiding me to this post again, because what I wrote then is what I need to remember now.  Thank you Wendy, thank you Abby.

We can all participate in the transformation that must occur now. each in our unique ways with our unique gifts.  We are pollinators for the future,   a future that must cherish and preserve all beings of the Earth.

May 1, 2012

 I love the painting above, which I found in a magazine; I don't know who the artist is, but thank him or her often for this  "Butterfly Woman" from whom thoughts like butterflies emanate out into the world to do their work. Perhaps the artist will forgive me that I do not know his or her name........but be glad that the work has gone forth to do its work in my heart and imagination.  Pollen:  agent of new life, new hope, transformation.  

As we (well, some of us) wind our way to the May Pole, and plant that metaphor into the still fertile earth, weaving our dreams into the ribbons of this ancient ritual of fertility, perhaps I can find a way to image the celebration of love and hope with a vast, global cry for help that sounds like a beating heart beneath the surfaces of our lives, just beneath our feet.  As the drums and penny whistles sound, as we dance, may we all become Pollinators for our time, for the future.

Like the woman who walks above, this is my prayer:    May we have butterfly minds, pollinator hearts. 

Peace March against the war in Iraq, San Francisco, 2003

The ancient Greek word for "butterfly" is ψυχή (psȳchē), which means "soul" or "mind".  And I have often found them mysteriously "soulful", as they seem to flit in and out of mystery.  The picture above, for example - it was from the San Francisco Chronicle at the time of the great peace march against the incipient Iraq war, and shows three friends with their "soul icons" - me in the mask of Sophia, Alan Moore, founder of the Butterfly Gardeners Association, and Nicole, creator of "Cosmic Cash".  Note that her icon, also, has occurred in this synchronistic photo.  

Transformers, pollinators .......... they begin their lives as caterpillars, build a crysalis, and generate imaginal cells........... 
"When a caterpillar nears its transformation time, it begins to eat ravenously, consuming everything in sight. The caterpillar body then becomes heavy, outgrowing its own skin many times, until it is too bloated to move. Attaching to a branch (upside down, we might add, where everything is turned on its head) it forms a chrysalis—an enclosing shell that limits the caterpillar’s freedom for the duration of the transformation.....Tiny cells, that biologists actually call “imaginal cells,” begin to appear. These cells are wholly different from caterpillar cells, carrying different information, vibrating to a different frequency–the frequency of the emerging butterfly. At first, the caterpillar’s immune system perceives these new cells as enemies, and attacks them, much as new ideas in science, medicine, politics, and social behavior are viciously denounced by the powers now considered mainstream. But the imaginal cells are not deterred.  They continue to appear, in even greater numbers, recognizing each other, bonding together, until the new cells are numerous enough to organize into clumps. When enough cells have formed to make structures along the new organizational lines, the caterpillar’s immune system is overwhelmed. The caterpillar body then become a nutritious soup for the growth of the butterfly."

from Imaginal Cells and the Body Politic by Anodea Judith Ph.D.
Photo from:
 If we can see that our thoughts participate in  pollinating the future, we can  perhaps find ways of living with simplicity and honor, even in a time so very out of balance.  Regardless of where one is, there is a profound need to "walk in Beauty".  To be "on the Pollen Path".

Without the grace of the pollinators, the butterflies and hummingbirds and bees, there will be no future.  This idea is fundamental to spiritual traditions of native peoples of the Southwest, including the Pueblo peoples, the Navajo and the Apache.  As shown above, when this young Apache woman came of age and entered into her fertile years, she was honored by the tribe with symbolic pollen.

 "The Pollen Path" is a healing and initiatory ceremony/concept among the Dine` that variously enacts a mythic journey, and demonstrates a cosmology of non-duality.  "Pollen Path" art and sand paintings often show the union of opposites, such as red sun and blue moon, as well as mandalas, the balance achieved within the circle.   In keeping with May Day, Psyche in Greek mythology was a beautiful girl who was loved by Eros, the god of Love. Here is "fertility", generation, pollination..........the union of soul/mind with love.  

As I imagine a "pollen path" for our time,  and emanations of hope and beauty,  I reflect as well that some butterflies, like the Monarch or the Painted Lady, are migratory.  Monarch butterflies will migrate over very long distances, as amazingly frail as they seem.  Some travel from Mexico to the norther parts of the United States and into Canada, a distance of over 2,500 miles. 

Lastly, a few thoughts from one of my favorite storytellers, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, on the work of the Butterfly Dancer.  May we all, women and men, young and old, become Butterfly Dancers this May Day.
  "The (Hopi) butterfly dancer must be old because she represents the soul that is old. She is wide of thigh and broad of rump because she carries so much. Her grey hair certifies that she need no longer observe taboos about touching others. She is allowed to touch everyone: boys, babies, men, women, girl children, the old, the ill, and thedead. The Butterfly Woman can touch everyone. It is her privilege to touch all, at last. This is her power. Hers is the body of La Mariposa, the butterfly." 

"La Mariposa
" from Women Who Run with The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Clarissa Pinkola Estes  tells the story of waiting to see the "Butterfly Dancer" at a ceremony.  Tourists, unused to Indian Time, wait throughout a long, hot, dusty day to see the dancer emerge, expecting, no doubt a slender, ephemeral Indian maiden, and they are no oubt they were shocked out of their patronizing cultural fantasy to see at last the grey haired  Dancer/Pollinator emerge, slow, not young, with her traditional tokens of empowerment.

"Her heavy body and her very skinny legs made her look like a hopping spider wrapped in a tamale. She hops on one foot and then on the other. She waves her feather fan to and fro. She is The Butterfly arrived to strengthen the weak. She is that which most think of as not strong: age, the butterfly, the feminine."
Because in the agricultural ritual these dances symbolize and invoke, call in, the forces that initiate the  vital work of pollination, this is no job for for an inexperienced girl, no trivial token flight for a  pretty child. It's a job for one who has lived through many cycles, and can seed and generate the future from a solid base.
"Butterfly Woman mends the erroneous idea that transformation is only for the tortured, the saintly, or only for the fabulously strong. The Self need not carry mountains to transform. A little is enough. A little goes a long way. A little changes much. The fertilizing force replaces the moving of mountains.

Butterfly Maiden pollinates the souls of the earth: It is easier that you think, she says. She is shaking her feather fan, and she’s hopping, for she is spilling spiritual pollen all over the people who are there, Native 
Americans, little children, visitors, everyone. This is the translator of the instinctual, the fertilizing force, the mender, the rememberer of old ideas. She is La voz mitológica."

"La voz mitológica". The mythic voice.  The Mythic Voice re-enchants the world around us, lending luminosity to each footstep, and pollinates, energizes, en-chants those who hear.   It is transparent, permeable.  And one way to walk the Pollen Path.

* The Pollen Path

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Endarkenment - The Dark Goddess in Art and Myth

Getting ready to offer a brief paper and slide show at the Conference on Pagan Studies at Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, California January 24 and 25.  As I suppose previous posts show, I've been researching this subject for a while now, and  I take the liberty of posting here my basic presentation and slide show, entitled:

Endarkenment:  The Dark Goddess in Art and Myth

Because of the limited time for this presentation, I'm going to concentrate on only 2 "Dark Goddesses" that occupy a profound place in the mythos of both the past and the present.  They are Hecate, the underground Greek goddess of the Crossroads, and Lilith, the Biblical first wife of Adam. 

Here is Hecate, the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess  in her underworld, with the other aspects of the Triple Goddess behind her, holding, perhaps, the book of fate, painted by the English visionary William Blake.  I love this painting because to me it suggests the Paleolithic underworld Goddess of the caves, the Great Mother whose womb the cave was, and the animals Blake includes  could be among those prehistoric creatures artists or ritualists painted,  incubating within the great womb of the cave a new birth in the spring.   In fact the earliest known painting of a human being is the truncated vulva form

Found in the caves at Chauvet-Pont d'Arc in France, the subject of an award winning documentary in 2011 by Werner Herzog, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams".   It has been determined that this is one of the earliest of the paintings in the site,  and the bull form was apparently painted over the original painting at a later date.  Paintings at Chauvet are from 28 to 32 thousand years old. 

Perhaps the first, and last, Dark Goddess is Gaia, Anima Mundi, Mother Earth.  Gloria Orenstein, in speaking of a theology of endarkenment, commented that it is  “bonding with the Earth and the invisible to reestablish our experience of interconnectedness with all things, phenomenal and spiritual, that make up the totality of our life in our cosmos. Ecofeminist arts do not maintain that analytical, rational knowledge is superior to other forms of knowing. They honor Gaia’s Earth intelligence and the stored memories of her plants, rocks, soil, and creatures."
 The dark is the place of creative becoming and unbecoming, the "dark matter" (Dark Mater) from which beginnings form and to which endings go, the circular intelligence of nature.   Could dark matter be symbolized as the cosmic womb of the Dark Mother, incubating and birthing galaxies, particles, stars and planets?

The dark is also the realm of the primordial Dark Goddesses.  Before the advent of patriarchal monotheism there were many of them, often also associated with the Moon, weaving, and oracular powers.  And snakes - everywhere, the sacred, spiraling  serpent.  Among them,  Hella, Nordic underworld Goddess, the Norns or fates, Persephone,  Nyx, Spider Woman when she leads each age through the birth  Kiva,  Dewi Sri, Rangda,  and Sedna, to name a few. 

 In earthly terms, they are the composters of souls.   "Compost" is another, organic word for the "Transmutation" that goes on within the depths of the soil of our planet, wherein  the "gold" of fertile life is distilled from rotting garbage. Composting is the alchemy of life.  

Who is the Dark Goddess as a psychological entity?  In  Fire of the Goddess by Katalin Koda, she writes that:

"The feminine qualities of darkness, moistness, birth, and blood symbolize the dark mother and our inner Initiate……When we face our shadow, we are initiated into our deepest powers. We may be afraid of these parts; these howling, undernourished, repressed, and rage-filled aspects of ourselves that demand to be heard, but which we cannot bear to face."

 Working with the shadow  means we are mining that darkness for the evolutionary jewels that reside in the caves.  Among the shadow Goddesses, the Dark Twin of Sumerian Inanna is one of the most ancient recorded myths about the eternal  transmutation of life.      Inanna must descend into the underworld realm of Ereshkigal, to encounter, understand, and heal the rift with the sorrowing and angry Queen.  In order to do so she must give up at each of 7 gates one of her powers, arriving at last naked and powerless.   Like the story of Persephone, the Descent of Inanna may also be seen as about the integration of dark and light aspects of self that are necessary to achieve mature wholeness and empowerment.  As playwright Elizabeth Fuller commented in a 2002 interview, 
"Persephone's myth is about moving into a new state of being.  All the soul riches, the knowledge, the art, everything was running down the drain into Hades and it stayed there.  It stopped circulating.  This was the myth of Inanna as well; everything went down to Ereshkigal, the keeper of the Underworld, and got stuck there in the universal unconscious.  Ereshkigal, the mind of the underworld, was on strike - she refused to process, which could be said of our collective predicament today.  We can look at the stories of Persephone and Inanna and see that they are pathfinders.  Pathfinders to the unconscious.  That's a very important myth for our time."

Hecate is often shown with two torches that guide the maiden Kore out of Hades, to become the creative force of spring, the mature Persephone.  One torch is the past, the other the future.  In that liminal place at the crossroads of time stands Hecate, the Goddess of the Crossroads, guide through the underworld.   She is often identified with the moon as well, particularly the dark moon.

One of my favorite contemporary images of Hecate is by Lydia Ruhle, whose Goddess Banners travel to conferences throughout the world.   Notice the ever ubiquitous snake, found throughout the artwork in this presentation.   While the snake is usually shown in the hand of Demeter, here Lydia has placed the snakes at the foot of Hecate, which to me represent the serpentine energies of nature, the Earth, the cycles of life/death/life.  Hecate's Wheel also represents this continual cycling and reforming of life, the three aspects of the Goddess represented by the spokes of the wheel.   
Contemporary artist Hrona Janto's Hecate stands at the crossroads with Cerebus, the three headed dog, holding the snake entwined staff and with a halo that represents the dark of the moon.

In 2002 Damira Norris chose to perform and invoke Hecate in a play created by Diane Darling.  For her the Goddess served as well as a guide through a very difficult time in her life.  As she described it, 


"I remember lighting a candle each day to symbolize my commitment to my journey through the despair I felt at menopause.  That's Hecate to me.  She will not help you to avoid a thing, but She will bear a light for you on the path, which is really the path to mature empowerment and integration.  I believe at certain passages in our lives our souls cry out "I want to get rid of this, I want to move on".  And it's not easy."

Lilith is a Dark Goddess who has fascinated artists for a long time, and her journey from the night time aspect of Sumerian Inanna, from the owl footed midwife to the feared succubus and demon of Jewish and Christian lore is a mythological journey that reflects the degradation of the sacred feminine, as well as the de-sacralization and denial of sexuality  in patriarchal monotheism.  In medieval art she is often shown as a woman with the body of a snake, as Michelangelo also interpreted her.  

According to various Biblical texts, Lilith was the first wife of Adam, made from the same clay.  Because she would not submit to Adam she was banished from Eden, and God created another, presumably more compliant wife for him.   But apparently Lilith occasionally managed to sneak back, and is often shown as the snake that offers the fatal fruit to naïve Eve.  But if so, what did Lilith really offer?  Wisdom, knowledge, the means to achieve selfhood within an understanding of the eternal, serpentine, cycles of life - the serpent of the ancient Great Mother.  Alas for both Lilith and Eve, who in attempting selfhood  became the penultimate Biblical scapegoats.
"Patriarchy is a system of male dominance, rooted in the ethos of war which legitimates violence, sanctified by religious symbols, in which men dominate women through the control of female sexuality, with the intent of passing property to male heirs, and in which men who are heroes of war are told to kill men, and are permitted to rape women, to seize land and treasures, to exploit resources, and to own or otherwise dominate conquered people."
........ Carol P. Christ

Of her similar derived painting "Lilith and Eve",  artist Linda Garland said: 
 "In the desert Lilith became the consort of Samael and other fallen angels. Fury with Adam and grief for her slaughtered children led Lilith to plot revenge."   

Well duh.  Banished to the wilderness of the seething unconscious, children destroyed, scapegoated for the downfall of man, the very symbol of  violent  sexual repression epitomized by such collective hysteria as the Inquisition…….no wonder  Lilith is also portrayed as  a screech owl.  She is mighty pissed off.  

Lilith is often portrayed as a succubus who comes in the night as a "wet dream", and her offspring also continued to plague Adam's descendants as succubae or vampires.   Some speculate that Lilith is the origin of the Vampire myth.  In symbolic terms, Lilith may represent the sexual, Kundalini energy that is subverted and diabolized in "sky god" monotheism, to become perverse instead of sustaining or generative.  And Lilith is also the collective shadow rage of women and the feminine  aspects of men as well.

 In 2002 it was my privilege to interview a Bay Area artist and musician, David Jeffers, who worked with the archetype of Lilith, and I was very moved by his observations. 

"The pain of Lilith" he said,  "is so much  about the divinity of human pain.  People often only identify with Lilith's rage, the woman who was cast out because She would not accept inequality. For me She is not that simple. If you can't go beyond Lilith's first door, which is rage, you're going to be stuck; you aren't going to penetrate the emotional mysteries beyond. Lilith is the most intelligent archetypal power to aid in understanding the mechanism that underlies our unconscious motivations, she is about the ability to connect the subconscious to the conscious mind, so that information can become usable in your life and on your path. Lilith is the bridge.  
People who are linear in their thinking suddenly find their world shattered when Eros shoots arrows at them. Or when they have an experience that is inexplicable or traumatic, something that cannot fit into the model they've organized their lives around. There are references in the Kabala to what is called "breaking the shell". The mind set of "what you believe" is the shell, and Lilith is about breaking the shell. You have to fall apart sometimes to be put back together; because that's the only way you can be reconstructed. You cannot veneer the teachings of Lilith on top of "who you think you are".

In Lilith imagery we see the snake again, and again, and again.  Here is a famous painting by the English artist John Collier.  And here another by Franz Von Stuck, which he titled "Evil" that clearly derives from Lilith mythos.

In the old kingdom of Egypt the word for snake or cobra was the same symbol as that for Goddess - the snake that represents the endless natural and psychic cycle of life/death/rebirth, just as the snake sheds its skin and moves, like the sinuous energies of nature, in a spiral.  The snake may also be seen as the generative force of the Kundalini.   But the enlightenment  of Apollonian logic is not serpentine.  It is vertical, illuminated, bright,  and orderly, and the only way of the Sky god is up.

Here we have Faust and Lilith by the 17th century artist Richard Westall.  The ubiquitous snake is barely visible in the foreground, and Faust cavorts with an innocent enough looking Lilith while  a riotous party is seen  going on in the background, one that could surely bring nothing but sheer damnation.  

Here we have several contemporary Liliths with a whole lot of snakes, which could also be viewed as a whole lot of Kundalini rising.  

Contemporary British artist Paul Fryer has created a winged wax Lilith, bound like Gulliver to the ground by 24 carat gold wires, bound but perhaps not entirely broken if one looks carefully at her eyes, which seem to hold a deep life force. 
Lilith is bound, bound by golden threads that perhaps demonstrate her great value to the forces that have bound her wings.  But she waits to rise again.

  In Opie Snow's Lilith series, Lilith is a primal, almost purely elemental force, which perhaps, viewed from the perspective of a woman artist, is neither desirable or wicked, but hurt, or possessed of enormous vitality,  or both.

Here is Kiki Smith's Lilith - almost spider like, she observes from the wall, her eyes regarding the viewer with the clarity of a creature banished to the shadows, the hidden places, a creature of pain, pathos, fear and loneliness.

In Mark Rothko's "Rites of Lilith", I have always felt he spoke of the the desolation of that harsh and hidden landscape within the collective unconscious Lilith has been banned to.

But there is hope today for Lilith, who is increasingly refusing to be hidden, punished, and scapegoated in many sectors of society.  

Here, for example, is a painting by Mariam Zakarian called "The Lilith Effect".  The artist has an entirely positive view of Lilith…..the rising Earth Serpent and the Goddess seem to be generative indeed, a virtual cornucopia.

And of course, the Lilith Faire.